Thursday, November 27, 2008

Join the RSYM!


The RSYM is active across Ireland. contact us for more information.

BT12 6DH

Current RSYM activities and campaigns

join a union
no to lisbon
youth education
defend our health service
freedom for all political prisoners
shell to sea
anti war /anti imperialist
support for republican socialist POWs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Materialist Analysis of the German Tragedy

A Materialist Analysis of the German Tragedy
A response to an anarchist view of German fascism's rise

On 24-9-08 the Dublin-based Workers' Solidarity Movement recorded a meeting on the rise of Nazism and the failure of the left to prevent it. The recording can be found on Ireland's indymedia website:

It's not only a fascinating topic, but as the speaker noted, of immense importance as the global economic crisis creates bleak conditions for many workers around the world, already causing the cost of food to rise beyond the means of many in poorer countries. This creates the conditions that could aid the fascists as they gain support by scapegoating vulnerable minorities and leading the working class into destruction. This is clearly on the rise in the USA for instance, where "minutemen" rightist paramilitaries wage armed attacks on suspected immigrant workers and more disturbingly have reached a mainstream audience with their ideas. Hatred of asylum seekers is similarly on the rise here in Ireland. So an analysis of fascism and how to fight it has rarely been more timely.

Unfortunately the anarchist analysis was quite shallow and peddled the same cliches steeped in anti communist prejudice that one has come to expect. As usual, it is difficult to tell an ultra left analysis from a bourgeois analysis. The theme followed the line that the Communists are to blame, a thesis found readily among both bourgeois scholars and anarchists. But in actuality it is not necessary to invent an evil Leninist conspiracy: a materialist analysis of the actual events is more productive.

Primary attention was given in the speech to the German Communist Party (KPD) designation of the social-democratic SPD as 'social fascist', and this was attributed to aiding the rise of the real fascists, the Nazi party. It was also claimed repeatedly that the Soviet Union was responsible for the KPD attitude towards the SPD. This is however a weak argument that is undermined by historical research. The KPD did not adopt the 'social fascist' label until 1929- and this followed on the heels of a massacre by SPD police of thirty-three Communist workers on May Day, 1929.

The sectarianism of the KPD (while often wrong, but not always), was not the central factor in the failure of the left and workers' movement to defeat the Nazis, but the consistent record of betrayals and class collaboration of the SPD (more on this later). There are many faults to criticise the KPD on that are both true and pertinent to today: their lapse into electoralism towards the end of the Weimer Republic (though in fairness they polled an impressive vote in the millions); the KPD pandering to anti-Semetism; the KPD failure to build a solid base of support, etc. Yet none of these points are mentioned in the speech or following discussion.

Nor did the Communists focus much energy on attacking the Social Democrats, despite the anarchist claims to the contrary, and in reality such attacks were almost purely rhetorical, primarily in their speeches to the unemployed (the Communists' base of support) and within the pages of their own press. The claim that the Communists focused their attacks on the SPD and preferred the Nazis is quite ironic when one considers that the Communists were the only force actively engaging the Nazis (sometimes going so far as assassinating leading brownshirts!) and physically challenging them on the streets!

While it is true that the SPD had its own paramilitary wing as the Communists did, this force was purely defensive, and even them quite reluctant. For instance in Coming of the Third Reich, author Richard Evans (certainly no friend of communism) describes an event at which Communist paramilitaries from the Red Fighters' Front arrive to protect a social democratic politician they believed was set up to be murdered by Nazi Brownshirts- and yet the politician's own allies in the social democratic paramilitaries were no-where to be seen!

So a more nuanced and developed analysis is called for to explain the rise of fascism in Germany, and specifically the failure of the left and working class movement to deal with it. And clearly, the KPD is less the invention of Stalinist manipulation than it is the inherited German Communist tradition that was always a bit ultra-left. However even this ultra-left leaning is understandable, considering that the social democrats were the party responsible for the slaughter of German communists during their revolution led by the Sparticist League. This also saw the death of Rosa Luxembourg at the hands of the ex-soldiers known as the freikorps. It is out of these freikorps veterans' associations that the Nazis were to rise from.

Therefore, if any party or section of the Left is to be blamed for the rise of the Nazis, it is the counter revolutionary and anti communist policies of the SPD while it was in power. This fact is very important, for it demonstrates the dangers of class collaboration, the deadly threat to the working class if it sacrifices its own political independence for opportunism. These lessons loom largely over events today as many Marxist currents still pin their hopes on the Chavez regime years after any workers' revolution has failed to materialise in Venezuala and likewise cheer on the Morales government even after it has failed to implement event tepid reforms. Surely there is an undeniable argument to be made that social democratic and left of centre governments are of a huge advantage to the working class compared to the old Latin American regimes dominated by the landed oligarchy and comprador bourgeoisie. However it is quite another argument to make that Chavez and his kind are in any way "socialist".

It is understandable that contemporary Trotskyists would still attempt to portray the KPD as the "villains" in the Nazi rise to power. Afterall, they have to defend their failed policy of entryism into the social democratic "workers" parties, such as the SPD. Therefore, they will gloss over the anti-working class and clearly counter-revolutionary record of the SPD "workers party" and focus on the mistakes of the KPD. It is less clear why the anarchists have followed this line.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Brief History of the Irish Socialist Republican Party and its Impact Today


According to James Connolly, there was only six men in attendance at Pierce Ryan's pub on Thomas St. in Dublin, when on the 29 May 1886 the Dublin Socialist Society was reconstituted
as the Irish Socialist Republican Party. These modest beginnings of the party never would have suggested the overall influence the ISRP was to have on left politics in Ireland even to this day.

Typical of the boundless energy of the newly-formed group, almost immediately the wheels were set in motion for public outdoor meetings to be held with the focus being education. I say this was typical of the group as throughout its short history (1896-1904) the ISRP punched above its numerical weight holding many events and producing some superb socialist speakers. In fact in its history the ISRP never exceeded a membership of more than 80 members which makes what they acheived even more impressive. The party was only really active in Dublin but attempts were made in Naas, Cork, Belfast, Limerick and England to establish similarly active branches.

The ISRP believed strongly that the Irish question and class struggle were inseperable. Connolly

viewed the party from its formation as the organisational link between two traditions: that of its own socialism and the politics of the 'advanced nationalists'. He believed that the

'Irish question was at bottom an economic question, and that the economic struggle must be able to function nationally before it could function internationally, and as socialists were opposed to all oppression so should they ever be foremost in the daily battle against all its manifestations, social and political.'

It was two years before the ISRP, despite it being a priority of Connolly, founded its own paper called 'The Workers' Republic'. It served not only as a medium for Connolly to express his opinions but it expressed as a whole a socialist point of view within the general political spectrum

in Ireland. Connolly saw the paper as the party's heartbeat, it was an expression of what the party was about and a way to connect with the workers. Internal fincancial problems led to the suspension of publication on occasion but the importance of the party paper should not be underestimated. It even reflected the internaionalism of the ISRP and carried many international articles and pieces.

The ISRP regarded the paper as vital to any political success they were to have, and even acted

as a debating table at times. Interested and sceptical readers alike were encouraged to write letters with any question or query they had on socialist politics. Connolly in turn would print these curious overtures and respond to them giving a detialed answer for all to read. The Workers' Republic did not lower itself into some arena to denounce other left-wing groups like many other left wing publications had done. Rather, the paper was seen as a 'missionary organ, founded for the purpose of presenting the working class a truer and more scientific understanding of the principals of Socialism...'

When resources were stretched however the paper was pushed aside to a state of secondary importance in respect to electoral success.The ISRP placed a huge emphasis on electoral success but despite this the results at the polls consistently proved disappointing. The party's programme of 1896 outlined and stressed the importance of electoral success in the ISRP's political strategy:

'the conquest by the Social Democracy of political power in Parliament, and on all public bodies in Ireland, is the readiest and most effective means whereby the revolutionary forces may be organised to attain that end'

The ISRP stood it's first candidate in the elections of January 1899. This was seen as an oppertunity for the party to bring its politics to a wider audience in the mainly working class area of North Dock Ward. The ISRP again showed it was not afraid of hard work when over 1000 envelopes containing writings on the election and their candidate's (Edward Stewart) manifesto were distributed to homes throughout the area. Public meetings were held in support of the candidate, with Stewart holding one a month before the vote was to take place. Heckling and scuffles was rife in the crowd gathered,however this was most likely arranged by the opposition.

Stewart fell sort of achieving a seat but a respectable showing left him only 150 votes short of a seat.

Connolly later reflected after another polling loss buoyantly and defiantly against the hardships a socialist candidate had to endure when the ISRP polled 800 votes:

'These votes were cast for no milk-and-water, ratepaying, ambiguous ''Labour' candidates, but for the candidates of a party which in the very stress and storm of the fight instructed its standard bearers to refuse to sign the pledge of the compromising Labour Electoral body, and to stand or fall by the full spirit and meaning of its revolutionary policy. These 800 votes were cast for Socialism in spite of a campaign of calumny unequalled in its infamy, inspite of the fact that the solemn terrors of religion were invoked on behalf of the capitalist candidates, in spite of the most shameless violation by our opponents of the spirit of the Corrupt Practices' Act and despite the boycott of the press'

However these failures in elections and the party's inability to find another strategy to forward the cause of socialism in Ireland could be seen as a central reason why the ISRP eventually failed.Perhaps if one candidate got a foothold in local politics and was elected the future would have been brighter for the party. As it was, the class conscious of the workers in Dublin remained low and the possibility of them adhering to the radical programme of the ISRP also remained low.

The ISRP was ahead of its time and before it's demise in 1904 made an impact on the Irish capitalist dominated political spectrum never to be forgotten. It agitated over issues like the Boer War, the 1798 commemorations and it even represented Ireland at the Second International.As mentioned above the party never had a membership that exceeded 80, which surely suggests to modern socialists parties with much larger numbers the limitless possibilities they have to progress the socialist cause. The hardships and obstacles the ISRP faced are far greater than the challenges modern groups face which makes the achievements of the ISRP a great source of inspiration. We must learn from the ISRP, challenge the capitalist political establishment in Ireland and further the cause of labour in Ireland until our goal of a socialist society is reached.